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Terminal operating system selection
The terminal operating system (TOS) is the primary instrument of record-keeping, planning, control, and monitoring for the modern marine terminal. The TOS serves, and is served by, labour, planners, supervisors, managers, liners, truckers, railroads, visitors, regulators, and analysts. The selection of a TOS will have profound impacts on both the tactical performance and strategic viability of the terminal, its customers, and its operator.
Any TOS rests on three foundations: infrastructure, database, and development platform. The essential qualities of any foundations are durability and stability, as replacing them is not feasible. We must recognise that the TOS is mission-critical, and that its missions will evolve over time. As such, all three foundations must be judged on: stability, high availability, performance, scalability, security, redundancy, effective vendor support, ease of service, precision, accuracy, extensibility, ease of integration, ease of customisation, and the ready availability of professionals who can maintain and improve them. The foundations must be highly resistant to failure. Failures must be open to rapid repair. The foundations must be designed to accommodate change, growth and evolution without pain or disruption. The foundations must both reflect and foster mature and sophisticated quality control.
Business complexity
The marine terminal is the meeting place of an incredible array of competing and cooperating entities, almost none of them in the direct control of the entity that owns the TOS. The TOS must serve many different user needs, and the way in which it serves each need must be sensitive to the tensions between cooperation, competition, transparency, and privacy. Each interface must be customised to reflect the strengths and weaknesses of each user. Labourers need simplicity. Planners need comprehensive visibility. Liners need freight control. Truckers and railroads need transport flexibility. Regulators need the ability to intervene. Analysts need unfettered access to history. The terminal operator needs to intelligently balance conflicts of interest. Everyone needs to make a living.
Terminal economics are dominated by routine box revenue, revenue for special services, the cost of operating labour, and infrastructure capital amortisation. The cost of information technology, while highly visible, is not materially significant. The selection process for the TOS must return, again and again, and again, to fundamental economics: attract more volume by providing excellent service, charge for what is handled, and keep labour costs in check. When it comes to the TOS, it is the thrifty operator who spends the most.
Operator interfaces
The operating labour is there to run the equipment, to move the freight, and to go home safely at the end of the shift. Productivity and efficiency are not of primary interest. Staying alive and making a living are. To foster productivity while serving these operator interests, the TOS’s operator interfaces must reflect the highest level of thought and design. Each interface screen must only present output and input directly associated with small, basic operator tasks. The operator should not have to take precious time and thought away from safety and machine control in order to read a wordy TOS interface screen. Each terminal must deal with its own operator culture, and so the TOS must provide the architecture and tools that foster custom creation of effective safe, efficient interfaces.
Customer interfaces
The marine terminal’s liner customers are all sophisticated international businesses, evolved over decades as survivors in a highly selective environment. Each customer has its own business systems that meet its particular business needs, in the context of their internal culture, their regulatory framework, and their own customers’ desires. Each customer may wish to interface with the TOS in a different way. The TOS must be open to these variations. The TOS must have sufficient flexibility to support creation and long-term management of interface elements for each customer. The TOS must be able to absorb new customers, and new customer needs. It must provide absolute privacy for each customer, so that the security of the freight and the competitive position of each customer are not compromised.
Regulator interfaces
Each marine terminal sits in its own local web of regulatory influences, while simultaneously supporting a growing international framework of safety and security controls. Local and national regulatory frameworks are widely variable, and are subject to change in response to the whims of sovereign powers. The roles of the regulator are to permit, detain, stop or otherwise meter the movement of containers. The TOS must present interfaces that allow regulators to grant permission for movement as quickly as possible, while allowing regulators the ability to detain or stop movements, while preventing regulators from overstepping their bounds. As this balance varies widely between jurisdictions, the TOS must be open to controlled regulatory programmability at the site level.
© Rahyab Rayaneh Gostar Co.